Growing Nossa Fazenda

Mariana Garner stops and gives her goats a little attention. They were not going to let her be that close to the fence and not get pet. The Garner’s are raising goats for the milk, cheese and soaps.

The rich brown patch of garden where none had been before was absolutely eye-catching against a backdrop of gray skies and beautiful late-spring, almost neon green grass. So was the woman in a straw wide brim hat, bright pink top and red leggings as she kneeled in the freshly turned soil. She was gracefully and quickly tucking in plant after plant.  
I had to stop for a picture.  
Brandt and Mariana Garner, I was told, only recently bought the property on the outskirts of Flandreau. The couple was away at work and would be home another time, a family member said as I introduced myself. They were there that particular day to help the couple get another garden area ready.
There was a lot of work to do.
The garden area being worked on would be the strawberry patch. They were working to get the first of 6,000 strawberry plants into the ground. Already planted were more than 100 fruit trees — cherry, apple and elderberry, for starters. Thousands of other plants had just come in as well and they were all anxious and excited to get everything into the ground.
The food the couple plans to grow, they said, will go to grocery stores as close to home as possible, an online fresh foods market, nearby farmers markets and a local CSA.
I was floored.
The local food movement is gaining momentum in our region, but growers of produce and small meat, cheese and other producers remain relatively rare in South Dakota, despite the fact we are one of the largest agricultural states in the nation. Corn, soybeans, wheat, hay,  sunflowers, sorghum, millet and oats dominate the landscape and feed us often in other ways.
But farmers markets and local food vendors, while prolific even just across the border in states like Minnesota and Iowa, seem to only now be catching more of a foothold in our area.
That is exactly why Brandt and Mariana are launching the farm that they are.
“We had to decide what to do with the place when we were buying it. It’s got two hayfields in the back…and after going to the grocery stores the past couple of years and seeing bare shelves sometimes, we thought, why don’t we grow food?” he said.
A little about the acreage just down the hill to the east of town.
Nassa Fazanda is what they are calling their new home, and you can follow the couple’s escapades under that name on Facebook. It means “Our Farm” in Portuguese, which is Mariana’s native language. She is originally from Brazil but has lived in South Dakota the past seven years. The couple moved to Flandreau this past fall. They had lived in Delmont where they owned a small corner store there, but the two decided to pursue work in Brookings. They have family there and wanted to be closer. Brandt now has a full-time job in manufacturing, Mariana is an animal scientist.  
When they’re not at work, they are going to be working their acreage with the same family and friends we ran into the first time we stopped. In the works are more than 25,000 new plants and trees — raspberries, tomatoes, onions, garlic, sunchokes, rhubarb, asparagus, and more. Along with that will be, “Right now we’re starting with goats and chickens, we’re going to expand into ducks and quail, mainly for meat and eggs. The goats we’re going to start milking and if we can get a commercial kitchen set up, we’ll start making cheese. Mariana is also making soap,” Brandt said. “We’re turning it into an orchard and berry farm is the biggest thing.”
“Stuff that we know the majority of people like and miss having it fresh,” Mariana added.
She is also hoping to reacquaint people with where their food comes from, she said, recalling the question a 16-year-old recently asked of her.
“She came to me and asked if white milk comes from white cows and chocolate milk comes from brown cows. And she was serious…that just shows how much people don’t know what farmers do,” said Mariana. “If you don’t have farmers, nobody eats. No meat, no veggies, no nothing.”
“We just want people to know that we’re here. We have plans for expansion and if the county will allow, we hope to put greenhouses up along the back of their property so that we can grow good, quality products year-round,” said Brandt.
The couple also plans for the farm to be labeled organic in the near future, but that process takes at least three years to establish. And they want to work with local schools, churches and other organizations to help feed families in need, offer a pick-your-own business eventually and sell plants as well.
How might they fit it all in? “Thank goodness it doesn’t get dark until nine this time of year!” Mariana said, with a laugh.

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